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Information on the birth place of
World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day

Its is very fitting that the birth place of a world event celebrating and educating on the profound benefits of the ancient Chinese health science of Tai Chi & Qigong (Chi Kung), would also be the home of one of the Western world's finest collections of Asian art.

Asian Art

Although the Nelson-Atkins has prestigious collections of European and American art, it is known above all for its magnificent collection of Asian art. The collection is considered one of the finest in the Western world for its scope, depth and consistently high quality. It includes art from China, Japan, Iran, Indonesia, Korea, India and other countries.

The Chinese collection comprises masterpieces from every phase of Chinese art. The bronze age (1200 B.C. to 500 B.C.) is especially well represented in a series of ceremonial vessels and weapons.

The collection of Chinese paintings is one of the best outside Asia, particularly in the most rare and desirable period of early Chinese landscape paintings, the 10th through the 13th centuries. The richness of nature’s nuances can be seen in works such as Xu Daoning’s majestic Fisherman's Evening Song, the greatest Northern Song landscape handscroll to have survived.

Other Chinese holdings include the fine collection of Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644) furniture, virtually unrivaled outside China; Buddhist sculpture and wall paintings; and an outstanding collection of ceramic ware spanning three thousand years.

From Japan, there are exquisite folding paper screens that celebrate nature. The Nelson-Atkins’s collection of Japanese lacquer is superb, and its Japanese porcelains are particularly strong.

The Bodhisattva Guanyin, the Chinese
Buddhist deity of compassion and mercy
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Collections - Asian Art

& Collections - Lawn Sculptures Art

From the beginning, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has been the child of fortune. The very existence of such a remarkable art museum in Kansas City, confounds the expectations of many.

When the Museum opened its doors in 1933, there was a general sense that a miracle had occurred. In barely the blink of an eye a full-blown art museum appeared complete with a majestic neoclassical building that signaled Kansas City’s extraordinary ambitions to build a temple to art and culture that would inspire and uplift all.

Even before the Nelson-Atkins was built, its benefactors planned to include the first major museum gallery dedicated to Chinese art in America. Around 1930, the Museum began acquiring works of art from China in order to build a collection that would represent this oldest continuous civilization’s highest achievements in every medium of art and from every historical period. Thereafter, the Museum has been able to maintain consistently high standards, making its permanent Chinese art collection one of the finest in the world.

Bodhisattva Guanyin

11th/12th century A.D.

Polychromed Wood

95 x 65 inches (241.3 cm)


Shanxi Province

Liao Dynasty

(A.D. 907-1125)

Purchase: Nelson Trust [34-10]

The Bodhisattva Guanyin, the Chinese Buddhist deity of compassion and mercy, here is seated in the posture of royal ease on a simulated outcropping of craggy, perforated rock. The position of the Guanyin conveys the impression that the Bodhisattva might at any moment awake from a state of deep contemplation and step down from the carved lotus rest. The Bodhisattva's worldly ornaments, such as the high tiara and rich necklaces in sumptuous detail, contrast with the more plain image of the Buddha, whose markings indicate ethereal status. The soft skin, contour of the of the body, and beguiling charm of the smile create an aura of pathos.


Modern sculpture is another area of distinction, both inside the Museum and outdoors in The Kansas City Sculpture Park, which features the country’s largest collection of monumental bronzes by British sculptor Henry Moore as well as works by other modern masters.

The Museum is also home to outstanding collections of ancient art, decorative arts, African art and American Indian art. In addition to the permanent collection, visitors may enjoy an ever-changing schedule of special exhibitions organized by the Nelson-Atkins and other institutions.

Currently, there are two exhibitions that highlight the Museum’s permanent collection of Chinese art.

The Glory of the Law: Treasures of Early Chinese Buddhist Sculpture

September 18, 2004–July 31, 2005

One of the world’s truly inspiring collections of early Chinese Buddhist sculpture from the 5th through 10th centuries is here reinstalled and reinterpreted for the visitor in ways that not only bring the visitor face to face with some of the most glorious works surviving from the period of

The River Bridge at Uji

16th Century, A.D.

Six-fold screen; ink and color over gold foil ground on paper

67-1/2 x 133-1/4 inches (each screen) (171.4 x 338.5 cm)


Momoyama Period

(A.D. 1568-1614)

Purchase: Nelson Trust [58-53/1,2]

Uji River Bridge, also called Willow Bridge, is the most important ancient bridge linking the two historical cities Kyoto and Nara. This river bridge is also the setting for the final scene in the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). It became an extremely popular theme during the Momoyama period.

In the painting, the bridge crossing the river is the dominant image of the whole composition, while a waning moon hangs in the sky and a golden waterwheel quietly turns in the water. The undulating waves and showers of green leaves of the willow trees create a rhythmic movement. In the foreground, the silhouette-like willow trees and gesturing branches play against the imposing arching bridge in the background. The audacious use of gold and the opulent design of the composition display a dazzling and luxurious beauty. The Momoyama contribution not only symbolizes the vital energy of its time, but also becomes an inspiration for future artists.

florescence of Buddhism in China but also give insight into how the artistic means of a entire nation responded to meet a foreign faith and evolved over time as China transformed that faith and was transformed by it. While the Nelson-Atkins’ collection is among the few able to provide a solid overview of the heyday of Buddhism in China, the installation focuses on how artistic means were developed in sculpture to meet changing needs of the faith in the context of a society that grew ever more worldly, wealthy and sophisticated.

Tide of Chaos, Fervor Within: Chinese Painters of the 17th Century Respond to Dynastic Upheaval

Nov. 26, 2004 – July 31, 2005

Claes Oldenburg, American (born Sweden), 1929

and Coosje van Bruggen, American (born the Netherlands), 1942



Aluminum, fiberglass-reinforced plastic and paint

19' 2 1/2" x 15' 11 3/4 " (h x diam)

Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Sosland Family [F94-1/1-4]

Sited on the Museum's lawn, Shuttlecocks comprises four larger-than-life sculptures of badminton "birdies." Each shuttlecock weighs between 4,500 and 5,000 pounds and is attached to an underground concrete foundation weighing 16,000 pounds.

Museum visitors will have a rare opportunity to enjoy the Nelson-Atkins’ unparalleled masterpieces of Chinese painting produced during a remarkably fertile period in painting that accompanied the fall of the native Ming dynasty and the establishment of the Qing dynasty by the “barbaric” Manchus. With the fall of the Ming came questions of culpability and loyalty to the fallen dynasty. Many in the literati intelligentsia turned to painting as an outlet for the moral dilemma that had befallen them. Many of the works in this exhibition represent the finest examples held outside China by the greatest masters of the last 400 years and have not been shown for almost two decades.

The Nelson-Atkins aspires to create a glorious environment--the ongoing experience which is in itself as compelling as a single "blockbuster" event. Whether you choose to stroll through the galleries in person or online, each visit brings different connections and unique experiences. If you are exploring the collection for the first time or the hundredth time, there’s always something new or something new to you.

Mark di Suvero, American, born 1933



Painted steel

24 feet high

Gift of the Hall Family Foundation [F99-33/5]

Location: storage

A brilliant orange painted steel sculpture, Rumi reaches to a height of 24 feet and weighs approximately six tons. Exhibited at the 1995 Venice Biennale, the sculpture was named for the 12th-century Persian poet Rumi whose writings exemplified the spirit of Sufi mysticism.

A place for quiet relaxation, creative inspiration, or an exhilarating start to your weekend the Nelson-Atkins invites you to experience one of the country’s pre-eminent cultural destinations.

Museum Hours

Tues–Thurs, 10 a.m. 4 p.m.

Friday, 10 a.m. 9 p.m.

Saturday, 10 a.m. 5 p.m.

Sunday, Noon 5 p.m.

Admission is free. Parking is $3 in the parking garage.